It's hard enough for a business to do one thing well, but when a company has two focus areas, it's an even bigger task to execute well. John Bean Technologies (NYSE:JBT) brings together two very different businesses, with airport ground support equipment like jetway bridges and tow tractors in its AeroTech division and food processing equipment and other food-related machinery for its FoodTech unit. That marriage has worked well over time, and JBT hopes to keep pushing both sides of the business to grow even faster in the future.

Coming into Monday's second-quarter financial report, JBT investors were hoping that the company would be able to bounce back from a slight setback last quarter, although they expected a slight decline in earnings from year-ago levels. JBT largely satisfied its shareholders with its results, and multiple acquisitions that it has announced today and earlier this month could stoke even hotter growth fires going forward. Let's take a closer look at JBT and what its latest results mean for the company's future.

Aircraft loading equipment.

Image source: John Bean Technologies.

JBT boosts its sales

JBT's second-quarter results were mixed but largely in line with what most had expected to see. Revenue was higher by 17% to $386.1 million, outpacing even the ambitious 16% rise that represented the consensus forecast among those following the stock. Net income fell about 5% to $17.9 million, and that produced earnings of $0.56 per share. That was quite a bit better, though, than the $0.51 per share that investors had projected for the mini-conglomerate.

Taking a look more closely at the numbers, JBT got the lion's share of its sales growth from acquisitions. About 13 percentage points came from newly acquired businesses, leaving just 4% organic sales growth for JBT. The strategic activity also weighed on operating margin, being responsible for more than half of the roughly two percentage point drop in margin figures to 10.9%.

JBT's segments show how the FoodTech business has outpaced its AeroTech sibling. The food unit saw sales climb by more than a fifth, making up nearly three-quarters of the company's total revenue. AeroTech managed to grow slightly, but at 7%, it picked up sales at a far slower rate. Pretax income figures for the two segment were similarly situated, with the tiniest of increases for FoodTech but a roughly 5% drop for AeroTech.

One area that was slightly better balanced was inbound order activity. Companywide, orders were up more than a third, with a 26% rise for the airport unit and a better than 40% gain on the food side. Order backlogs rose to $670 million, split roughly two-to-one in favor of the food division.

John Bean CEO Tom Giacomini summarized the situation clearly. "JBT delivered solid performance in the second quarter of 2017," Giacomini said, "with strong new equipment and aftermarket sales growth." The CEO also called out order gains on both sides of the business as encouraging for the company overall.

Can JBT fly higher?

JBT is also extremely optimistic about the rest of the year. As CFO Brian Deck said, "With a strong outlook for the second half of 2017, we are raising our full-year revenue guidance." The company now expects to see revenue growth of 19% to 20%, about two-thirds of which will come from acquisitions. That includes boosts both to the organic and acquisition-led contributions to sales. However, JBT does see margins failing to improve as much as previously anticipated because of integration costs from its purchases.

JBT's latest acquisitions will play a vital role in that growth. Just today, the company said that it would acquire powder-filling systems provider PLF International for 28 million British pounds. The two companies already had a strong relationship, with numerous collaborations over the past decade, and although the purchase will have a minor hit to earnings in 2017, it should more than make up for that reduction in 2018 and keep growing in 2019 and beyond. The move follows up on the early July purchase of military aviation equipment maker Aircraft Maintenance Support Systems.

However, the purchases will also affect third-quarter results. JBT's guidance was for $0.76 to $0.79 per share in earnings for the current quarter, which is less than projected but accounts for dilution from the acquisitions.

JBT investors didn't react sharply to the report, with the stock trading flat in after-hours trading following the announcement. What it will take for JBT to add to its impressive recent share-price performance is continued success in driving both organic growth and finding future acquisitions with equal promise as the ones it has already made.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.